Sunday, December 17, 2006

Mind of Mansel: JR & I in Iraq, Part 5

(Parts 1-4 below)

Driving through the wasteland that has become Iraq you pray you'll run into an arms dealer and you'll also pray he'll have some legs and a few hands, some teeth and eyes. You hope he'll start the bidding with a request for just a drop of water to pour atop the loaves and fishes he has brought to feed the warring tribes as they sit down and start to calmly discuss the atrocity that is unfolding on american television that has been unbelieved so far on Al Jezerra. Maybe you'll cringe when he says offhandly that he was kept out of Rwanda because the prosthetics he had brought along couldn't make it through customs years before the tightened security of 9/11. But then again in Iraq as in many other war zones in modern times the dust will get in your eyes and you'll be able to blame the blurred lines of aggression, of morality, on the weather and the politics of plurality, the obscenity of greater good, on something in your eye. but to the racist marine Jack was dealing with it was something eaten away at his soul a long time ago. Not a speck of dust introduced at the factory but a giant ball of hatred either beaten or lovingly enthralled upon a young boy who before he knew hot to hate was taught that one man was better simply by the color of his skin and it was unfortunate for his fellow Marines and the citizens of Iraq that this individual was not weeded out and was armed and set loose in a war zone. A casualty is a number in any year whether it contains an election or not, and in Iraq as well in America the news was not good.

Then almost as if on cue came the Marine from Tennessee behind the wheel of a Humvee. In the distance came a mortar attack, it's the sound you'll never forget if you ever hear it once. The entire camp reacted at once. The Major that Jack had interviewed came out of his command post and was scanning the desert for the action. Marines were running for their companies and there was hollering all around us. The Marine from Tennessee seemed unfazed. In Jack he saw a direct line to the killing and he was not about to be tied down to waiting for orders and seeing whether or not he would see action that day.

The Humvee came to a sudden stop in front of Jack as he tried not to jump out of his skin. The Marine jumped out and started counting the clips for his M16. "Gotta go get some, just a mortar, maybe just a few of'em!"

Jack was still keeping an eye out for the Major who hadn't discovered us just yet. But we had a problem. Jack was on one side of the camp and I was on the other and in the middle was the Major and a camp in a frenzy stocked full of Marines with posters of Osama Bin Laden with supermodels taking a dump on his face and handdrawn pictures of Bin Laden on diaylsis being tied down to an electric chair repeatedly.

Just as Jack and I were about to lock eyes across the camp and exchange a voiceless means of communication we had managed to develop in some of the world's worst hot spots, an incendiary device went off inside of the camp and the mess tent went up in flames. The explosion was minimal but sent a surge further into the camp as another mortar landed about a hundred yards away from the camp.

Jack grabbed the Marine from Tennessee and screamed, "What are you boy a Dixie Chick or Daniel Boone? Get in there and get some!" Pointing at the spot whers the mortars landed he got the Marine's attention and he raced off to where Jack had pointed. Jack seized the moment and jumped behind the wheel of the Humvee. Dodging troops who were running for the mess hall more from curiousity than anything, Jack skirted the perimeter and made his way to me and I jumped in the open driver's side and we were off. Speeding down the only road out of the camp that wasn't being hit by mortars we were on our way to the site of an ambush knowing all along that a marine Colonel knew who we were and that we knew that he was related in more than one way to the incident.

The words of the racist marine rung in my ears, "You think no one has fragged anybody since Vietnam?"

- Chris Mansel

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